Journal archives for May 2021

May 04, 2021

In Peru, a Plant Genus With Remarkable Pollinator Interaction - Observation of the Week, 5/4/2021

Our Observation of the Week is this Nasa picta plant, seen in Peru by @then

A botanist at the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Dr. Tilo Henning was born and raised in Berlin and describes himself as 

sort of a classical nature-lover who has caught and collected animals and plants as a child already. At the age of ten I started growing tropical plants at home and later kept different exotic pets such as poison frogs and turtles. Until this day I collect and cultivate many rare plants in vivaria in my house.

As a young adult he focused on botany and has worked on plants in the Loasaceae family since the beginning of his studies. “During my diploma and PhD studies,” he says, 

I revised many species groups in the genus Nasa and described a number of species new to science with my colleagues from Germany and Peru. I have made many field trips to the Peruvian Andes to collect plant specimens and study the complex pollination system found in this plant group.

He took the photo you see above in 2018, while on one of those trips with his colleagues from the Botanical Museum and Garden, and it’s clear he’s passionate about plants in this genus.

Nasa picta is a rather widespread species, relatively common in Northern Peru. It is definitely one of the prettiest species, although Loasaceae in general are very showy plants, at least when flowering. Nevertheless, they have received rather little attention and have often been ignored by collectors due to their very painful stinging hairs that can cause intense pain and skin irritations. The common name used by the locals is Ortiga, which is derived from the stinging nettle (Urtica) which it’s lumped together with due to the stinging nature of these completely unrelated plant groups. Their painfulness and the often remote, high Andean habitats impede the scholarly study of these interesting plants, and their intriguing pollination biology has been unraveled only very recently. 

It turns out this genus has one of the most complex systems of reward partitioning and pollinator interaction in the plant kingdom. The plants perform a rapid stamen movement to present pollen in small packages to co-adapted pollinators that are rewarded with nectar. The pollen partitioning is thereby dynamically adapted to the actual pollinator behaviour and visitation frequency. I have published some papers dealing with different aspects of this interaction in the recent past.

Tilo (above, with Nasa picta behind him) has used iNaturalist for some time to check out what people have observed in his areas of study, and tells me 

[iNaturalist] is very helpful, especially in countries with a rich biodiversity and an unsatisfactorily resolved taxonomy for many groups of organisms. I started to upload my own photos only very recently but promise to add more in the near future. Since the focus of my field trips was very narrow I will likely be able to provide a number of unique observations that are particularly important in such an endeavour.

- Tilo’s work with the Nasa genus was featured in the New York Times back in 2019! 

- And you can read the paper “Flowers anticipate revisits of pollinators by learning from previously experienced visitation intervals” by Tilo and his colleagues here. It concerns Nasa poissoniana.

Posted on May 04, 2021 11:14 PM by tiwane tiwane | 19 comments | Leave a comment

May 12, 2021

The Weevil and the Coleopterist - Observation of the Week, 5/11/21

Our Observation of the Week is this Metapocyrtus bituberosus weevil, seen in The Philippines by @anncabras24!

A coleopterist living in Davao City in The Philippines, Analyn “Ann” Cabras is also an organizer of Davao’s City Nature Challenge project and a National Geographic Explorer. “I guess I have always felt like being one with nature,” she tells me, and says she rode horses, climbed trees, and chased bugs as a child. She eventually became an educator and is now a biologist who specializes in weevils. “I think we have some of the prettiest weevils in the world and I love documenting them in the wild,” she says. “A lot of new species are waiting for discovery as well…

The last extensive studies on beetles in the country were in the 1800s and early 1900s. The Philippine beetles, especially for some groups, are terra incognita. Beetles are also less fussy to collect, have a hard sclerotized body which makes collecting, storage, and preservation easier, and are adorned in bright colors and patterns. Most of the ugly beetles are pest ones. But the endemic ones and those living in the forests are adorned in gorgeous colors and patterns. I love the feeling of discovering new [species] and adding the much-needed data [for the future] (especially because we have few taxonomists/systematists in the country).

So it makes sense, of course, that she would come across a gorgeous weevil during this year’s City Nature Challenge. 

We documented it in a resort that has been left unattended for a year because of the pandemic. Although it has pretty colors, it is one of the most common species of Metapocyrtus and has been recorded in several remaining green spaces in the city, which speaks of its high adaptability to anthropogenic disturbances. The majority of the Metapocyrtus species are highly associated with forested habitats.

Ann tells me not much is known about the diet of Metapocyrtus beetles, “but they [have been] observed feeding on young leaves and flowers of some endemic plants. I also keep them as pets and I feed them fresh carrots.” Like other weevils, they have snout from which two antennae protrude, but the family is incredibly diverse, with over 80,000 described species. 

Her National Geographic Explorer work “involves the mimicry complex of weevils, particularly of the tribe Pachyrhynchini,” says Ann (above). “The study of this mimicry complex has led me to publish numerous species which are new to science and conduct a phylogenetic study of the colors involved in the mimicry of patterns.” She’s also gotten grants for organizing BioBlitzes in The Philippines and received a leadership fellowship. She’s been on iNat for nearly six years now and tells me

I use iNaturalist to educate people about wildlife, to seek help in identification for taxa that I'm not familiar with, and also for research. Oftentimes, I scout good observations in iNaturalist to find interesting and new species of weevils. I think iNaturalist is a very good platform to hasten the documentation of wildlife, especially because we are losing most of our forests and green spaces at an unprecedented pace. I do look forward that our local environmental agencies will take advantage of this platform and on my end, I look forward to using more of iNaturalist data to publish interesting finds and data and help make good policies out of it.

- You can check out Ann’s publications here.

- National Geographic wrote an article about Ann’s work, and she’s also featured in their Trailblazer education magazine for third graders (in both English and Spanish).

- This isn’t the first Observation of the Week post to feature a colorful beetle from The Philippines!

Posted on May 12, 2021 06:14 AM by tiwane tiwane | 11 comments | Leave a comment

May 17, 2021

Welcome, iNaturalist Guatemala! ¡Bienvenidos, iNaturalist Guatemala!

Today we officially welcome iNaturalist Guatemala as the newest member of the iNaturalist Network! iNaturalistGT is a collaboration with the National Council of Protected Areas -CONAP-, National Information System on Biological Diversity -SNIBgt-, Guatemalan Association of Mastozoology, the Foundation for Rural Development Junej T´inam and OTUS.

The logo is inspired by the national bird of Guatemala, the majestic Quetzal, Pharomachrus mocinno, which is also the name of Guatemala's currency. This species has been considered sacred by the Maya culture and appears in many stories and legends. This bird lives in undisturbed cloud forests, and the males’ emerald green color, scarlet red breast, and long tail feathers make them unmistakable. It is an endangered species, mainly due to the loss of habitat, and it is highly protected in Guatemala.

The iNaturalist community in Guatemala is growing, with more than 2300 observers, 2400 identifiers and more than 30,000 observations to date. The main priority is to create an awareness of conservation of natural resources in all citizens, while generating knowledge about the biodiversity of our country. All the data collected that reach the research level will feed the National Information System on Biological Diversity (Sistema Nacional de Información sobre Diversidad Biológica -SNIBgt-) and will serve for research and improve decision-making in the management of protected areas and biological diversity. iNaturalistGT is coordinated and administered by the Directorate for the Assessment and Conservation of Biological Diversity of CONAP.

About the iNaturalist Network

The iNaturalist Network now has 16 nationally-focused sites that are fully connected and interoperable with the global iNaturalist site. The sites are: Naturalista Mexico, iNaturalist Canada, iNaturalist New Zealand (formerly NatureWatchNZ), Naturalista Colombia, BioDiversity4All (Portugal), iNaturalist Panama, iNaturalist Ecuador, iNaturalist Australia, ArgentiNat (Argentina), iNaturalist Israel, iNaturalist Finland, iNaturalist Chile, iNaturalist Greece, iNaturalist Luxembourg, iNaturalist United Kingdom, and now iNaturalist Guatemala. Any iNaturalist user can log in on any of the sites using their same username and password and will see the same notifications.

The iNaturalist Network model allows for localizing the iNaturalist experience to better support communities on a national scale and local leadership in the movement, without splitting the community into isolated, national sites. The iNaturalist team is grateful to the outreach, training, translations, and user support carried out through the efforts of the iNaturalist Network member institutions.

¡Bienvenidos, iNaturalist Guatemala!

¡Hoy damos la bienvenida oficialmente a iNaturalist Guatemala como el miembro más nuevo de la Red iNaturalist! iNaturalistGT es una colaboración con el Consejo Nacional de Áreas Protegidas -CONAP-, Sistema Nacional de Información sobre Diversidad Biológica -SNIBgt-, Asociación Guatemalteca de Mastozoología, the Fundación para el Desarrollo Rural Junej T´inam y OTUS.

Nuestro logo está inspirado en el ave nacional de Guatemala, el majestuoso Quetzal, Pharomachrus mocinno, que también es el nombre de nuestra moneda. Esta especie ha sido considerada sagrada por la cultura maya y aparece dignamente en muchas historias y leyendas. Esta ave vive en bosques nubosos poco perturbados, y su especial belleza se caracteriza por su color verde esmeralda, su pecho rojo escarlata y las largas plumas de la cola hacen que los machos sean inconfundibles. Es una especie en peligro de extinción, principalmente por la pérdida de hábitat, y se encuentra altamente protegida en nuestro país.

La comunidad iNaturalist en Guatemala está creciendo, estamos iniciando con más de 2200 observadores, 2400 identificadores y más de 30 mil observaciones, ¡y vamos por más! Más personas de todas las edades se están involucrando y conociendo la biodiversidad de Guatemala. El objetivo principal es crear conciencia sobre la conservación de los recursos naturales en todos los ciudadanos, al tiempo que se genera conocimiento sobre la diversidad biológica de nuestro país. Todos los datos recopilados que alcancen el grado de investigación alimentarán al Sistema Nacional de Información sobre Diversidad Biológica -SNIBgt- y servirán para realizar investigación y mejorar la toma de decisiones en la gestión de áreas protegidas y diversidad biológica. iNaturalistGT es coordinado y administrado por la Dirección de Valoración y Conservación de la Diversidad Biológica del CONAP.

Acerca de la iNaturalist Network

La Red iNaturalist ahora tiene 16 sitios enfocados a nivel nacional que están completamente conectados e interoperables con el sitio global iNaturalist. Los sitios son: Naturalista México, iNaturalist Canadá, iNaturalist Nueva Zelanda (antes NatureWatchNZ), Naturalista Colombia, BioDiversity4All (Portugal), iNaturalist Panamá, iNaturalist Ecuador, iNaturalist Australia, ArgentiNat (Argentina), iNaturalist Israel, iNaturalist Finlandia, iNaturalist Chile Grecia, iNaturalist Luxemburgo, iNaturalist Reino Unido, y ahora iNaturalist Guatemala. Cualquier usuario de iNaturalist puede iniciar sesión en cualquiera de los sitios usando su mismo nombre de usuario y contraseña y verá las mismas notificaciones.

El modelo de iNaturalist Network permite localizar la experiencia de iNaturalist para apoyar mejor a las comunidades a escala nacional y al liderazgo local en el movimiento, sin dividir la comunidad en sitios nacionales aislados. El equipo de iNaturalist agradece el alcance, la capacitación, las traducciones y el apoyo a los usuarios, realizado a través de los esfuerzos de las instituciones miembros de la Red de iNaturalist.

Posted on May 17, 2021 11:34 AM by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 19 comments | Leave a comment

May 20, 2021

Welcome, iNaturalist Sweden! Välkommen, iNaturalist Sverige!

Today we welcome iNaturalist Sweden as the newest member of the iNaturalist Network! iNaturalist.Se is a collaboration with the SLU Swedish Species Information Centre, a national repository for, e.g., the accumulation, analysis and dissemination of information about species and habitats in Sweden. It is one of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences’ formal collaborative centres.

Most of the work conducted at SLU Swedish Species Information Centre fits into the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences’ programme for Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, focusing on the long term goals of sustainable development expressed by the Parliament in, e.g., the Swedish Environmental Objectives. They work on commission from the Government and other authorities within the field of Swedish biodiversity, frequently in cooperation with various NGOs. They also conduct research in the fields of Ecology and Conservation.

There is high interest in Sweden about species and nature, and that has grown even further during the pandemic. A blog post from 2019 on iNaturalist activity in Sweden shows a doubled activity compared to two years earlier. This doubled yet again with only one added year (2020). Now, in May 2021, there are now over 114,000 observations from Sweden, about half of which are research grade. We’re excited to see where 2021 will take this, and even more so with the launch of iNaturalist.Se.

Whereas we previously had @evahedstrom topping both the list of number of observations as well as number of species in Sweden, we now have @vesper, @daniel_petersen and @jensu sharing the top three positions in these lists.

We encourage anyone from Sweden to affiliate your account with iNaturalist.Se in your account settings. By affiliating with your local network site, you can receive updates about relevant iNaturalist-related news and events. Affiliation is also important for sharing data for research and conservation purposes. SLU Swedish Species Information Centre will have periodic access to the exact locations of some observations that are not otherwise visible to public:
-True coordinates of observations that you have chosen to make obscured or private (via user-selected “geoprivacy”), if you have affiliated your account with iNaturalist.Se.
-True coordinates of sensitive species from Sweden, which are otherwise automatically obscured from public view (via “taxon geoprivacy”), even if you are not affiliated with iNaturalist.Se.

About the iNaturalist Network

The iNaturalist Network now has 17 nationally-focused sites that are fully connected and interoperable with the global iNaturalist site. The sites are: Naturalista Mexico, iNaturalist Canada, iNaturalist New Zealand (formerly NatureWatchNZ), Naturalista Colombia, BioDiversity4All (Portugal), iNaturalist Panama, iNaturalist Ecuador, iNaturalist Australia, ArgentiNat (Argentina), iNaturalist Israel, iNaturalist Finland, iNaturalist Chile, iNaturalist Greece, iNaturalist Luxembourg, iNaturalist United Kingdom, iNaturalist Guatemala, and now iNaturalist Sweden. Any iNaturalist user can log in on any of the sites using their same username and password and will see the same notifications.

The iNaturalist Network model allows for localizing the iNaturalist experience to better support communities on a national scale and local leadership in the movement, without splitting the community into isolated, national sites. The iNaturalist team is grateful to the outreach, training, translations, and user support carried out through the efforts of the iNaturalist Network member institutions.

Välkommen, iNaturalist Sverige!

Idag välkomnar vi officiellt iNaturalist Sverige som den nyaste medlemmen av iNaturalist-nätverket! iNaturalist.Se är ett samarbete med SLU Artdatabanken, ett nationellt kunskapscentrum för bland annat insamling, analys och tillgängliggörande av data om Sveriges arter och naturtyper. Det är en av Sveriges lantbruksuniversitets formella centrumbildningar.

Det mesta av arbetet som utförs vid SLU Artdatabanken passar in i Sveriges lantbruksuniversitets program för Miljöövervakning och Miljöanalys, med fokus på långsiktiga mål för hållbar utveckling formulerade av riksdagen i, t.ex., Sveriges miljömål. De arbetar med uppdrag från regeringen och andra myndigheter inom området för svensk biologisk mångfald, ofta i samarbete med olika ideella föreningar. De genomför även forskning inom områdena ekologi och naturvård.

Det finns ett stort allmänt intresse i Sverige för arter och natur, vilket har ökat ytterligare under pandemin. Ett blogginlägg från 2019 om iNaturalist-aktivitet i Sverige visar på en fördubblad aktivitet jämfört med två år tidigare. Detta fördubblades ytterligare på bara ett extra år (2020). Nu, i maj 2021, har vi över 114 000 observationer från Sverige, varav ungefär hälften är av forskningsklass. Det ska bli spännande att se hur det utvecklas 2021, särskilt nu med lanseringen av iNaturalist.Se.

Där vi tidigare hade @evahedstrom i toppen av både listan över antal observationer och antal arter, hittar vi nu @vesper, @daniel_petersen och @jensu på topp tre i dessa listor.

Vi uppmuntrar alla från Sverige att knyta sitt konto till iNaturalist.Se i sina kontoinställningar. Genom att knyta ditt konto till din lokala webbplats, kan du få uppdateringar om relevanta iNaturalist-relaterade nyheter och händelser. Anknytningen är också viktig för att dela data i forsknings- och naturvårdssyfte. SLU Artdatabanken kommer att ha regelbunden tillgång till de verkliga koordinaterna för en del observationer som annars inte är allmänt tillgängliga:
-Verkliga koordinater för observationer som du har valt att diffusera eller hålla dolda (via användarens val av “koordinatsekretess”), om du har knutit ditt konto till iNaturalist.Se.
-Verkliga koordinater för skyddade arter i Sverige, som annars automatiskt diffuseras för allmänheten (via “taxons koordinatsekretess”), även om du inte är knuten till iNaturalist.Se.

iNaturalist-nätverket har nu 17 nationellt fokuserade webbplatser som är helt kopplade till och kompatibla med det globala iNaturalist. Webbplatserna är: Naturalista Mexiko, iNaturalist Kanada, iNaturalist Nya Zealand (förut NatureWatchNZ), Naturalista Colombia, BioDiversity4All (Portugal), iNaturalist Panama, iNaturalist Ecuador, iNaturalist Australien, ArgentiNat (Argentina), iNaturalist Israel, iNaturalist Finland, iNaturalist Chile, iNaturalist Grekland, iNaturalist Luxemburg, iNaturalist Storbritannien, iNaturalist Guatemala, och nu iNaturalist Sverige. Alla iNaturalist-användare kan logga in på vilken som helst av dessa webbplatser med sitt användarnamn och lösenord och kommer att se samma aviseringar.

iNaturalists nätverksmodell möjliggör anpassning av iNaturalist-upplevelsen för att bättre tillgodose communityns behov på en nationell nivå, utan att för den skull dela upp den i isolerade, nationella webbplatser. iNaturalist-teamet är tacksamt för den kommunikation, översättning och användarsupport som görs av iNaturalist-nätverkets medlemmar.

Posted on May 20, 2021 04:35 AM by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 8 comments | Leave a comment

A Pseudoscorpion Carries Her Young - Observation of the Week, 5/19/21

Our Observation of the Week is this adult Pseudoscorpion and its offspring, seen in India by @abhiapc!

When it comes to arachnids, most of us are familiar with spiders, scorpions, ticks, mites and maybe harvestmen (often called daddy long-legs). But Class Arachnida also counts other wonders among its ranks, including the tiny pseudoscorpions (Order Pseudoscorpiones)! 

Abhijith A.P.C. is a homeopathic doctor in India, where he also runs a ten acre organic farm and for the last six years has been studying and photographing arachnids, including pseudoscorpions. “Like spiders,” he says,

[pseudoscorpions] are very essential in checking insect populations and they hunt on ants, beetles, bees and other bark insects...Other than tree bark I have seen them inside Honey bee boxes. We keep more than 10 bee boxes in our farm and pseudoscorpions live there.

While he’s seen pseudoscorpions carrying eggs, this month he was able to document parental behavior in pseudoscorpions.

Here juveniles had come out of their eggs and one juvenile was moving on the ‘females abdomen. The rest (around three more) were in the ventral aspect of the abdomen.

This observation was made inside the Honeybee box. I didn’t have a camera to document this so I immediately rushed home and came back with a camera... Luckily pseudoscorpions with juveniles didn’t move much. The I opened the box, as light entered, the pseudoscorpion started running in search of a dark place. It was moving in between bee hives. As my concentration was with the pseudoscorpions, the bees started stinging! Before the pseudoscorpion moved inside the crevice of the bee box, I managed to get a few pics and this is a collage of that.

Not growing much larger than 12mm (0.5 in), pseudoscorpions do have pincer-shaped pedipalps like those of “true” scorpions, but lack the tail-like appendages of those larger arachnids. And while scorpions pack a venomous stinger at the tips of their tails, pseudoscorpions inject venom through their pincers. As was so beautifully documented here, females are known to carry their recently-born young for several days. 

As I mentioned previously, Abhijith (above) has been seriously interested in arachnids for about six years now (he’s also been birding for about a decade) and joined forces with other arachnid enthusiasts to make Team SALIGA, “where we do many awareness programs...We also have a group of 150 spider enthusiasts who are keenly observing spiders & this group is called “KARNATAKA SPIDER CLUB”.

Of iNat, Abhijith tells me “just a year back I was introduced to this beautiful platform. From then I have added nearly 400 observations & mostly all on spiders. I can’t find any better platform to share our joy of nature observation & also learn from others.”

Photo of Abhijith by Sumukha javagal.

- Abijith was profiled in print and video by the Deccan Herald, check it out!

- More of Abhijith's photos can be found on his Flickr page.

- Pseudoscorpions often grab onto larger invertebrates as a way to travel to another location, which is called phoresis. Quite a few of the most-faved pseudoscoropion observations on iNat document this behavior, like this one.

- The work of another member of Team SALIGA, @vipinbaliga, was featured in an Observation of the Week post over five years ago!

Posted on May 20, 2021 06:03 AM by tiwane tiwane | 19 comments | Leave a comment

May 25, 2021

A Naturalist and her Daughters Find a Tiny Orbweaver in Bolivia - Observation of the Week 5/25/21

Our Observation of the Week is this Bertrana spider, seen in Bolivia by @kozue!

“It all began with a butterfly,” says Kozue Kawakami.

We (I, the mom, and two daughters ages 5 and 7) found a butterfly laying eggs on a tomato leaf in our small garden. Our quarantine project involved watching the larvae’s metamorphosis. After 39 days the butterfly surprised the girls and left us all intrigued by the tremendous phenomena of nature.

Kozue’s friend, biologist Suzanne Vargas (@thevargases), introduced Kozue and her daughters (below) to iNat. Since then Kozue’s posted over five thousand observations and continues to explore the area around her house with her daughters. “We found the Bertrana spider on one of my daily morning walks with the girls,” she tells me. “The youngest immediately named it ‘little ball spider’ and the elder waited contentedly for the ID from iNaturalist users.” The iNat community came through and identified it as one of only ten observations of Bertrana on the site.

It’s impressive Kozue and her girls even saw this orbweaver spider, as members of the genus Bertrana are among the smallest known orbweavers on the planet, with females not getting much better than 5 millimeters or so in length! (Levi, 1989) They range through Central and South America and are believed to build small vertical webs in the evening. 

“Six months ago iNaturalist opened the door for me to biological diversity that was always around me though I never noticed,” says Kozue (above).

I had always liked taking pictures of little insects. But they were all just “bugs” to me back then. I knew so little about them that I thought spiders were insects, too. iNaturalist has taught me many things! But the biggest lesson it has taught me and continues to teach me each day is that in Bolivia, nature is megadiverse.

We might not have survived being cooped up in the pandemic if it weren’t for the “bugs” that accompanied us in all of their forms and colors. Little by little I am becoming familiar with the species that make up the over 5,000 observations that I’ve uploaded. Most are insects and spiders. All have been seen in my small forest of 300 m².

- Kozue and her daughters have reared 14 species of butterfly since that first encounter. Here’s a compilation video of some of them (text in Spanish). “They couldn't even touch bugs, back then,” she says.

- Kozue also posts photos to her Instagram account.

Posted on May 25, 2021 10:34 PM by tiwane tiwane | 8 comments | Leave a comment